Thanks to VBlank Entertainment for the review code
Title: Shakedown Hawaii
System: Nintendo Switch (eShop)
Release Date: 05/07/2019
In this successor to Retro City Rampage, you take control of a CEO who’s in charge of a company on the verge of collapse, thanks to the rise of new technology. Despite efforts to try and make the old ways mainstream, he ends up realizing that he has to take things into his own hands to get the whole island of Hawaii under his control.
Back in 2017, I praised Retro City Rampage DX for being a gorgeous and faithful throwback to the NES, since in a sea of knockoffs and pixel art titles RCR stood out by constantly referencing the NES era and using an art style very similar to what you would find on real hardware, along with a soundtrack that was equally as fitting. Shakedown Hawaii aims to do the same but for 16-bit titles, and it succeeds tremendously.
In fact, the visuals and sound are so great that Shakedown feels less accurate to a specific console, and instead just feels like a brand new 16-bit game, with super polished sprites sporting gorgeous animations, and rich sounding music. Just like RCR before it, Shakedown feels like a big love letter to a specific era of gaming, while also making sure to try and surpass some limitations from the era. In the end the presentation has a great upgrade from the original RCR.
Despite being a spiritual successor to RCR with the same sort of controls and gameplay, it’s not quite a 1:1 upgrade of RCR. While yes, you can still have fun in free-roaming mode and go nuts taking down people or just goofing off, the map is completely different, as is the nature of the story. Yes, you still go from mission to mission by going to a big M on the map to advance the story, but rather than being filled with random video game references, this one focuses more on the story at hand, even though there’s still some fun references now and then, and you can still do goofy things such as getting different hairstyles or hats!
The missions are also a lot more fun than the ones from RCR, since instead of doing some dragged out challenge or driving a long distance, there’s more action and the missions are quicker this time around. Sometimes you’ll even switch to one of the other two characters for a mission, and although they all play in a similar fashion, it’s nice to start in a completely different part of town every now and then.
Of course, another goal has to do with the titular Shakedown gimmick, where you can either buy up properties with your company’s funds or barge into a building and force them to hand over the ownership. Completing and getting total domination of the entire island is a big goal here, and while I didn’t really find the purchasing aspect all that engaging, it was a lot of fun to roam around town and see which buildings could be acquired. Before a recent patch however, it was kinda difficult to find specific buildings on the map, since there was practically no labels to speak of. Now it’s a bit better since there’s waypoints on the map that tell you what buildings are where, but if you want a specific building then it’ll still be a bit tricky to find, though this is only really an issue if you have your eyes set on very specific places.
Outside of that, there’s also the return of some fun side features from RCR. The parking garage is back, allowing you to save specific vehicles you take a liking to in the CEO’s own home, along with the score attack challenges. While the ones in RCR were fairly basic and didn’t really grab me for long save for a few of them, nearly all of the challenges in this game succeed in being very fun and addictive experiences.
Like before, your main goal is to complete the objective and rack up as high of a score/fastest time as you possibly can, to get either a bronze, silver or gold medal. Whether that comes from running over a bunch of people, getting a lot of kills in with a weapon, or speeding your way to an objective as fast as possible, there’s a lot of fun stuff to do here. As a side mode, it’s a very enjoyable way to pick up and play the game without spending too much time on it, and there’s even challenges for every weapon in the game that lets you go nuts with our favorite ones, leading to a great time.
In conclusion, Shakedown Hawaii was absolutely worth the long wait it took to get here. From superb score attack challenges, a good story mode and just a bunch of stuff to do and fun to be had, Shakedown Hawaii ended up feeling just a bit better than the original RCR thanks to a bit more focus. However, I did find the weird nature of the map (Which got improved after a patch, but still isn’t perfect) and the scaling back of some of the humor to be a bit of a downer compared to RCR, but overall this is the much better game that’s a lot more engaging than RCR. RCR is more for goofing off and just having a fun nostalgic time, but Shakedown truly feels like a modern successor to an old franchise and fits in super nicely as a great open-world action game. For $20, you definitely can’t go wrong with this fun, empire-expanding adventure.
I give Shakedown Hawaii a 9 out of 10.
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